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Category Archives: Divorce

You’re Not Alone

My father is 91. Whenever I see him, (he lives about 700 miles away), the first thing he says to me is how alone he feels. Admittedly, part of this is his own doing. He avoids crowds due to his inability to hear people well and tends to shy away from social situations. Keep in mind, at one point, he was the President of the New York State Farm Bureau. But big picture, most of his brothers and sisters are gone. He recently lost a son-in-law. And he’s losing his memory and finally acknowledging his age and quite frankly, he’s scared.

This past week, my sister took him to a new doctor. My parents had moved a while ago and he had held on to his old doctor despite the distance until it was becoming obvious to both the doctor and my family that he needed someone closer. And so after a bit of drama he2014-05-25 11.42.45 agreed to get someone closer.

The foundation of this blog has always been to remind us that we’re never the only one on this path. Somewhere out there is someone who is experiencing the same trials and tribulations you are. Somewhere, someone understands what you’re going through. It’s true when your seven. It’s true when you’re seventeen. It’s true when you’re fifty and it’s true when you’re 91. It’s a key element to our peace of mind. To have the knowledge that there is someone who gets it and understands what’s going on in your head. Such was the focal point of my father’s doctor visit.

Even at 91. Even with everything my father has lived through. His accomplishments. His ups and downs. His knowledge of life and what it means to be 91. Despite having family around him every day reminding him that they’re there for him, even he simply needed a stranger to say, “You’re not the only one experiencing this and I want to help.” And from what my mom and sister told me, that’s exactly what this new doctor said. “I understand, and you’re not the first one to go through this.”

I’m told he wept at the end of the visit, which from all accounts lasted nearly two hours. I can only guess, that simply hearing someone tell him, “you’re not alone and I’m here to help” brought a sense of relief to him. That’s not to say that he doesn’t already have people around2014-05-30 17.31.57-1him who love him and are there to help. But sometimes it takes a complete stranger with no history to validate your state of mind.

As divorced dads (and moms), there are times when we feel incredibly vulnerable and alone. We wake up in an abyss of unknowns, convinced our lives are a complete mess. We shy away from inviting people in wondering who would want to be a part of our mess. During those times, knowing there are others just like you, somehow gives you peace of mind and an ability to face it head on with a little more confidence and resilience. It also helps us recognize that our world really isn’t as bad as we tend to make it out to be sometimes. And yes, sometimes it’ll make you weep when the weight of feeling alone is lifted. Hearing about my dad’s experience and having watched him these past few years and having watched my children grow and navigate through their first decade has helped me recognize that in every stage of life, we’re convinced we’re the first to experience the pains we’re living through.

In that vein, this blog has been a source of therapy for me as well these past three years. Each note I receive, every comment made, reminds me that there are others going through the same things I am. And that we’re all doing our best and learning as we go. The reality is, sometimes it simply helps to know, you’re not alone.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Daily Life, Divorce

 

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Don’t Drink the Water

So, about three weeks ago my daughter and I made a trip up to Conesus Lake (one of the Finger Lakes) to visit family. Was an amazing trip and a great bonding experience for my daughter and I. She’s a great travel companion and terrific company on the thirteen hour drive eachphoto way.

As we were leaving she said, “Oh hey! I need to get a bottle of lake water for science class.” So we grabbed an empty “Kroger Water” bottle I had lying in the Jeep and she went and filled it up. I typically have no fewer than eight to ten full bottles in the Jeep. My kids are always asking for one when we’re on the road and I myself try to make a habit of keeping hydrated.

Flash forward to this morning as I was getting out of the Jeep and grabbing my backpack and running into the office. As I was closing my door I grabbed a full bottle and closed the door.

I was browsing the Web, eating my lunch and wrapping things up when I looked down to see some residue at the bottom of my bottled water. It was then that I realized that I had just finished three quarters of the lake water from the bottle that never made it to science class. Should be an interesting evening.

I’ll have to ask my daughter how science class was.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Daily Life, Divorce, fatherhood

 

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Get With The Program(mer)

It is never lost on me, that each of my children are hardwired very differently. Each has their own way of approaching things and each their own interests. Sometimes these overlap, but more often than not, each has a unique set of triggers in just about every aspect of their personality.

If one of our jobs as parents is to help our kids find their passion and create a series of goals to motivate them, the first task is to recognize what it is that gets their motor running. Notice I said, “their” motor, not yours. That’s the hard part, as more often than not, what’s enticing and interesting to your kids is completely foreign to you as a dad (or mom). Or we attempt to push our own interests on them,Screenshot 2014-09-17 10.57.43 primarily because it’s easier and admittedly, who wouldn’t want their kid to show an interest in what they do. But in my house, unless you’re Beyonce’, Peyton Manning or Tom Ford, you’ll typically get a “ho hum.”

Currently, I have a fashion designer, a singer and apparently a video game developer living under my roof. It would be easy to roll your eyes and say, “sure honey, you can be a singer.” But truthfully both my fashion diva and songstress have proven to maintain a strong interest for an extended period of time in both interests. Enough so that both their mom and I are looking at ways to support the interests while giving them a well rounded understanding of both the creative and business side of their pursuits. Which leads us to the last one on the list; the video game developer.  We’ve been waiting for him to find a “calling” of sorts and it’s a somewhat new discovery that basically came about by having to answer the simple question, “Dad, how do you make a video game?”

Now, ask me how to make a music video or a bologna sandwich and I’m your guy. How to make a video game? No idea. My initial reaction was “Well, you study hard in school and go to college to learn how.” Seemed reasonable enough. The answer went over like a Flappy Bird hitting a giant lead pole as my son proclaimed, “But I want to make it NOW!” I then mentioned something about having to learn how to write “code” and escaped to the kitchen to make dinner.

My son returned about fifteen minutes later with an entire page of code he’d written in his own computer language. Obviously, this idea wasn’t going to go away any time soon.

So after I put the kids to bed I started searching on line and low and behold, there are a TON of ways for kids to learn computer programming and development. What appears to be at the top of the list is code.org, a site that features Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates along with a plethora of other computer scientists, programmers and developers all eager to help us all (not just the kids) understand computer programming. There is even a lesson on how to build your own version of Flappy Bird. This morning I showed it to my son and he went bananas. And when he’s not on the site, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m on it learning a thing or two myself.

What really gets your kid’s mojo working? Do you know? What have you done to encourage it or maybe discourage it? Would love to hear your experiences in the comments section below.

 

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Surviving Mile 21

Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis know that I’m an avid runner. Those who don’t read my blog on a regular basis, well, now you know too. Because of this fact I often correlate life to running and visa versa. From pacing yourself, to pushing yourself to the affects of stress, I find countless times when my life and my running regiment seem to go hand in hand. So it should have come as no surprise when a recent conversation with a dear friend of mine who’s been walking this journey with me for a while helped me discover yet another example of how life emulates running and it goes a little something like this:

When you run you’re first marathon, the first couple of miles feel pretty good. You’re pumped. You’re full of energy, a little scared and nervous, but confidence is high and you’re ready to roll. You aren’t really sure what to expect having heard stories from other runners. You know there will be difficulties to encounter, but you’re positive and prepared to meet the challenge head on. People around you are very encouraging, telling you, “You’ll do great!,” “If anyone can do this you can,” “Did you know marathon runners lose toe nails during the race,” etc. All in all, despite the knowledge that this is going to be a tough road ahead, you’re full of piss and vinegar and brimming with confidence. The same holds true of the divorced dad. Despite a feeling of complete and utter fear of what’s to come, you’re prepared to meet the challenge head on. Everyone around you is very encouraging, telling you, “You’ll do great!,” “You’re a great dad,” “Did you know marathon runners lose toe nails during the race,” etc.

At mile 5 you’re like, “I got this! Look at me, I’m running a marathon! Holy Crap!” You wave to people along the course, there’s a spring in your step and you’re beaming with pride because YOU are a marathoner. For a divorced dad with kids, the feeling is the same. You’re past the initial shock and starting to recognize that the world isn’t completely falling apart. You’re getting a little more comfortable with the idea of being a single parent and are proud of yourself for managing to figure out how to get the kids fed, clothed and off to school without a need to take them to the emergency room. You haven’t missed a softball game or recital yet. All in all, you’re rockin’ it.

Around mile 10 the honeymoon isn’t quite over yet and you’re actually feeling yourself getting into a good rhythm. You’re determined and feeling good. You think to yourself, “I can do this. I feel alright. Not sure what all the fuss was about.” It’s also a point where you start talking to yourself more. You find yourself giving yourself little thoughts of encouragement, telling yourself to “Keep it up!” and, “You’re doing great!” and “Just ignore that nagging stabbing feeling in your little toe, it’ll go away. Probably just my toe nail falling off.” For the divorced dad, your confidence grows every day as you figure out more and more and get more comfortable managing the kids, work, the house, the yard and everything that goes along with it. You look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Can you believe what I accomplished today?!” It’s all still kind of fresh and you’re feeling a rhythm that has you starting to think “Father of the Year” award and do your best to ignore the nagging pain in your lower back.

Around mile 12 you start to go over numbers. A lot of numbers. Things like, number of miles, average mile, splits, how much further, etc. You start to calculate in your head nonstop and begin attempting to count the number of steps you take in each mile. It starts to become a mental game as the monotony of stride after stride after stride starts to take its toll. It’s similar in a divorce with kids, only the numbers are more like, how much is in the bank account today, how much will be in the account tomorrow, how many cereal bars are left in the pantry, how many lunches have you made for school in the past month, how much money is in the bank account, how much will be in the account when the mortgage is due, was your daughter’s game on field six at seven or on field seven at six? Can you believe gas is almost $4.00 a gallon? That’s just crazy. Do I have enough money in the account for gas? These are all tactics used by your mind to help you avoid the fact that it’s starting to hurt.

At mile 15 you’re like, “I’ve run fifteen miles and I’m still going! I am AWESOME! Look what a great runner I am!” A divorced dad is like, “I just finished three loads of laundry, we had dinner at the table, all the dishes are clean and put away, the kids’ homework is finished, they’re bathed and we still had time to watch an episode of Good Luck Charlie before bedtime. I am an AWESOME DAD!”

At mile 15.25 miles you suddenly realize you aren’t finished, get a cramp and have a sudden craving for beer. For dad the cramp is replaced by a kid who has a bad dream at 3 am and crawls into bed with you placing their foot directly in your face for most of the night.

Then around mile 20 or 21 it happens. You hit a wall. You’re cussing at yourself for signing up for this experience convinced you will die before mile 22. It hurts and you’re noticing pain in places you didn’t even realize you had. People around you are too busy dealing with their own crap to be encouraging and don’t even bother to acknowledge you as they basically walk past you. You start convincing yourself it’s ok if you quit. I mean, come on, look how good you did. You went pretty damn far. No one would blame you for giving up. The numbers in your head are overwhelming and never come to the same total twice. You’re freaking out convinced you won’t have enough to finish and immediately panic because you can’t remember if you paid your insurance premium. Divorced dad is in a similar place. The exuberance you once felt for having a handle on everything is waining. It’s now a matter of survival. You’re tired, overwhelmed and spent convinced you won’t have enough money for Christmas. The routine is old and the energy it takes to keep up with work, three kids, the house, the yard and your blog is taking its toll. This is where you’ve determined, and will say with conviction, that you meant to leave your shoes lying in the middle of the kitchen and that the clutter gives the house an appealing “Lived In” look. You’ve decided that the kids will get peanut butter sandwiches and a slice of cheese for lunch and like it. Making the bed equals cleaning the house. You secretly hope it rains to avoid driving 45 minutes to a softball game and start to wonder what you’ll look like selling newspapers on the corner when you’re homeless. One of the kids comes down with a fever and you immediately panic because you can’t remember if you paid your insurance premium.

But the marathon runner and the divorced dad have an innate inner strength that few will ever understand. Both recognize that all of these negative thoughts are the antithesis of what they truly feel. They love to feel the burn. They crave the aches and pains because those pains make them feel alive. They love the 45 minute drives to softball games because it means some serious one on one time with their kid. And a fire from within pushes them to keep going.

I wrote once that there really is no grand finish line when you’re a parent. But I’ve discovered that honestly that’s not true. Like the marathoner, you eventually cross a finish line you never thought you’d be able to reach. Somehow you reach deep within and find the strength to get past mile 21 and muster through mile 22, mile 23 and eventually mile 26.2. You recognize mile 21 was just a moment and you got past it. You revel in your ability to overcome the negatives and the adversity. It’s hear that you determine how much you love running. Or, how much you LOVE being a divorced dad. There is something special about it. It has its own unique hurdles and it’s own unique victories that only others who have traveled this path will ever truly understand.

The reality is, we’ll all live through many mile 21′s. And some will be harder than others. But you’ll make it. And you’ll revel in crossing the finish line every time. Then you’ll start to prepare for the next marathon and be a little more prepared for the next mile 21.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in dealing with stress, Divorce, pacing yourself

 

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These Rose Coloured Glasses

There are times I sit back flabbergasted by how much life can overwhelm me. It’s so cyclical. By now you’d think I’d grow accustomed to the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs and recognize the patterns. You’d think that by now I’d know not to worry. That I always manage to find a way to make things work. That the world is not against me and to trust the cosmos.

Unfortunately I’m human. I worry. I stress. I lose sleep. I hurt. I panic.

I’ve heard it said that God only gives you what you can handle. As much as I appreciate his faith in me, there are times I wish he’d just give me a day or two to regroup and recharge.
keep-calm-see-life-through-rose-coloured-glasses

And yet we keep going.

Personally I survive by looking for ways to laugh at the absurdity that can become my life at times. I may have to scour sometimes, but when it all seems to be falling apart, I scrounge for a little sunshine to focus on and get me to the next horizon.

I’ve been told I can tend to look at the world through rose coloured glasses. But honestly, I feel fortunate to be able to find so much positive and beauty in what can otherwise be a negative and ugly world at times. If we aren’t searching for and recognizing the joy around us, all we’re left with is the hurt and misery. I believe that what our world is and what it’s overall make up is, is completely up to us. If we choose to focus on the negatives and allow our stresses to consume us, then that’s what we’ll see and be forced to live with.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t have a sense of reality and be prepared for life. Obviously we can’t just go through life without a care or without planning ahead and denoting a sense of structure. But I am convinced that happy people are those who are able to see past the bull shit and see the beauty. Those he can see the possibilities no matter how unrealistic they may appear. I’m convinced and have always preached that it’s the unrealistic who create a new reality. So, if you’re finding yourself focused on the negative and stressed over what appears to be a very dark and desperate landscape, perhaps you’re actually looking through a pair of rose coloured glasses that have cracked or are simply caked over with too much of life’s grime and merely need a good cleaning.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Daily Life, Divorce

 
 
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